Following its recent consultation, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has agreed in principle how it should prescribe the future role of the Inns of Court in the training and qualification of barristers.
The regulator has today published a Policy Statement outlining its position and confirming that it believes the Inns will continue to have an essential role in the training of barristers. The Policy Statement also clarifies the BSB’s role in the oversight of student barristers and confirms that new, more robust checks will be introduced to help determine the suitability of everyone being Called to the Bar in future.
The Policy Statement explains that the BSB will:
- continue to oversee students intending to become barristers in England and Wales, but with strengthened oversight arrangements between the Inns and the BSB;
- continue to require student membership of an Inn;
- require Authorised Education and Training Organisations to check prior educational attainment;
- continue to require the Inns of Court to administer the “Fit and Proper Person” test and other checks made before somebody is allowed to be Called to the Bar;
- require a ‘Standard’ Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check at the point of Call to the Bar;
- review the wording of the declaration made when students are Called to the Bar and its associated guidance;
- continue to delegate matters of student conduct to the Inns (subject to reviewing roles and responsibilities and agreeing appropriate BSB oversight of the process) and;
- continue to require a minimum number of professional development events provided by the Inns which are known as “qualifying sessions”.
The BSB believes that the content of qualifying sessions should not only be aligned to the Professional Statement but should also focus on public interest matters such as the advocate’s role in the rule of law and integrating trainees into a “community of practice” through interactions with more experienced practitioners and the judiciary. The Inns are uniquely placed to provide this important function and the BSB will consider in more detail how many sessions would be appropriate and the detail of the oversight arrangements to be put in place. More of this activity should be available to prospective barristers outside London, through coherent collaboration between the Inns, circuits and regional training providers.
The BSB’s October 2017 consultation also considered future rules and regulatory arrangements for the work-based component of training (pupillage) as well as seeking views on a draft of a new framework to enable training providers to develop new and innovative training programmes for aspiring barristers. The regulator will be considering responses to these aspects of the consultation at Board meetings in April and May. It expects to publish similar Policy Statements on these additional aspects after it has made its decisions. These policy decisions remain subject to the final approval of any resulting rules that will be agreed by the Board once it has considered all relevant policy question changes (and subsequent approval by the Legal Services Board).
BSB Director of Strategy and Policy, Ewen MacLeod, said:
“We would like to thank all those who contributed to our recent consultation. The Inns of Court play an important role throughout a barrister’s career and most of the consultation responses that we received reflect a desire for their continued involvement before prospective barristers are Called to the Bar and whilst they are still learning. It was felt by most respondents that both student membership of an Inn and participating in a minimum number of qualifying sessions add real value to barrister training. These policy decisions will inform the new training regulations and the BSB will now work with the Inns to clarify roles and responsibilities in more detail.”
Any new rules are expected to come into effect in 2019.
You can read the Policy Statement here.